« Perazzi Over/Under 12-Gauge: The Gun I Had to Have | Main | How Long Does Gunpowder Live? »

July 25, 2006

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

Spray and Pray: Why cops should go back to carrying revolvers

Here are a number of things that don’t fill me with confidence:

  • Condoleezza Rice, on her way to anywhere
  • George W. Bush
  • Dick Cheney wearing a game vest
  • The TSA, doing anything
  • Cops with guns

Since the first four are mostly outside the provenance of this blog, let’s talk about the fifth. What brings it up is a newspaper story revealing that on July 23, three New York City Police officers fired a total of 26 shots to kill a pit bull that was chewing on a fellow officer. The three who did the shooting were grazed by stray bullets.
According to police who commented on the incident, time seems to slow down in a violent encounter, and in that time officers keep on sending those rounds out. In this confrontation, one officer fired 13 rounds, another fired 12, and the third officer only one. No doubt he will be reprimanded. The officer who was being chewed on did not shoot, being otherwise occupied.
Most police officers nowadays are armed with automatic pistols that hold 16 or 17 shots and have double-action triggers that are guaranteed to prevent accidental discharges but are also guaranteed to prevent accurate shooting. So when it’s time to go to powder city, the average copper is going to rely on volume, not precision, and if you happen to be in the immediate vicinity, God help you.
Maybe we should bring back the 6-shot revolver.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Spray and Pray: Why cops should go back to carrying revolvers:


JA Demko

I come from a family that has been involved in law enforcement since about 1960. Dad, an uncle, and an aunt were all LE. I've played around a little at being a deputy sheriff, myself. Now I'm going to tell you a little secret: Back when they used revolvers, most cops were still lousy shots. Training and practice, after leaving the academy, tended to be nearly nonexistant. Officers were trained, usually, to fire their revolvers in the double action mode which meant that accurate placement was more difficult just as you describe with DAO autoloaders. Going back to revolvers would reduce the number of shots fired, to be sure; I don't think it would do much to improve accuracy, though.


I think they should all use the colt 1911 (or one of the million clones). Single action, good triggers, plenty of stopping power, reliable, proven. Good weapons and continual training would be the answer to the spray and pray methods on display now.

O Garcia

This reminded me of that in-game fight between Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers and Charlie Ward, then of the NY Knicks. Bryant was at the peak of his exuberant, precocious powers, fresh from his third straight NBA championship, and had come to training camp (and the new 2002-2003 season) with added muscle and strength. And at a legit 6-7, he towered over Ward, who's probably 6-2. On the other hand, although Ward found his pro sports career in the NBA, he was a Heisman Trophy winner in college football, and definitely was no pushover. Therefore, a few differences aside, it's a wash physically.

It was down to their guts and capacity for violence then. Charlie Ward immediately got off a left, which connected to Bryant's jaw. Before the rest of the TV world even knew what was going on, he followed with a right, which was again on the mark. The stunned Bryant did his best (but ultimately lame) impersonation of Ceferino Garcia, launching a bolo punch at his opponent that landed harmlessly on some air molecules and the fibers of Ward's jersey.

After this incident, Bryant even said that afterwards he watched Jet Li and the movie "Romeo Must Die", apparently to steel himself for future wars with other players. Something tells me he still couldn't land a punch after that.

What I'm trying to say with such a long recount of an incident which took probably less than 10 seconds is this: some of us are born with the ABILITY and WILLINGNESS, call it intestinal fortitude, to deliver harmful force, even lethal force, to others. Some, no matter the state of training and preparation, simply are not. Some of us are from the mold that made William Munny. (Or Wild Bill Hickok, if you prefer a real person.) Some are from a different mold.

O Garcia

"the three who did the shooting were grazed by stray bullets."

that's the scariest part for me. not only did they commit overkill, something tells me they were also standing in each other's firing line. someone other than the poor dog could have been seriously hurt, not the least the police officer the dog was biting.

I remember one of Finn Aagard's reminders to his clients, that in case he (Finn) is mauled by a wounded animal, in no case should the client attempt to shoot the animal. Finn said something like: I am less likely to die from a bite or horn wound or a bashing than I am from a bullet in the guts. These cops could have ended up with two or more of them dead, the way they were shooting.


It's a tough issue. The bad guys have high capacity weapons, sometimes fully automatic high capacity weapons. Would revolvers handicap the police? I keep thinking about the LA shootout when the two lunatic bank robbers with body armor and fully automatic rifles dominated the police - and it was captured on video for the world to see. On the other hand, you have high capacity weapons in the hands of people wearing badges - some of whom exercise very bad judgement, and think the badge makes them braver, tougher, "badder" than anyone else.

My hunch is we have a society today where most people grow up with little to no experiece with firearms, and that lack of knowledge and experience shows. Some of those people choose to go into law enforcement. Most do their jobs with valor, and are never recognized. Others find themselves in a situation where lethal force MAY be necessary and do not handle the situation well. (I do not want to be too judgmental here. Unless one has been in that situation, one truly does not know how one will react.) Revolvers would limit the amount of lead they could put in the air, but that is only a band-aid solution. Frankly, I don't know what the solution really will be.


Good thing those NYPD went up against a dog and not a whacked-out drug gang.

My background is military so in some respects I’m confused on some corners believing a handgun is an offensive weapon. It’s really a defensive item, according to military thought. I believe the only offensive weapon allowed "regular" NYS Law Enforcement is the billy club.

It would appear arming LE with the large magazine semi-auto’s handguns is good politics by giving the image of issuing something good, but very poor judgment in properly arming police for dramatic events. It would appear the serious way to arm American LE is to follow the European tendency to issue fully automatic, compact machine pistols and military combat rifles to their cops.

I’m certain such armed NYPD would have made short work of that dog.

This scene, of course, freaks out politicians and bureaucrats in changing the social aspects of the American Law Enforcement Game. Don’t think people are ready to see this.

Good luck, LEO’s


I find this and MANY other stories along this line quite appalling to say the least.

First, if I am forced into a defensive shooting situation I and only ME is responsible for EVERY round that comes out of my weapon. Should I miss 1 shot or have a round go thru and kill a bystander with a ricochet I go to prison for life for murder. Why not LEO's?!

Second, cops get PAID to train and have ammo PAID for with tax payer moneys. While I must scrimp and go without feed for a week to pay for the ammo to feed my defense weapons for my training. Yet, I am a MUCH better shot than 90% of the LEO's I have met and shot with.

Sickening to say the least.


KJ; In the LA bank robber situation, AGIAN, shot placement would have saved the day.......but instead we had spray and pray mindset to no avail. EXACTLY what we see from LEO's time and again. Luckily no innocents (non-combatants is a better term)were harmed in that debacle.

Mark; Full auto weapons in the hands of LEO's freaks ME out as it should politicos......if the LEO's cant hit with revolvers or high cap. semi autos what makes you think high cap. FULL auto would help....other than killing more bystanders.

Sheesh, cops should be held to the SAME standards you and I are held to in defensive shootings with same limits imposed upon me and you......they are no different. LEO's are no more than citizens like you and I. Save they get paid to carry a gun. They KNOW the dangers when they take thier oath to enforce the law. That doesn't put them ABOVE the law. PERIOD

Training is the key. wether for me and my personal carry 1911, or cops and thier issued 9mm's.

Peter Caroline

Back in the day, at least on the east coast, when cops carried revolvers, local police departments actively competed in police revolver leagues. Higher pay or status was accorded to superior marksmen, "reserve" or "auxiliary" officers were often recruited for their marksmanship skills, and many departments reloaded their own training ammo. Since the late '60s, however, police weapons skills have been compromised by a number of factors: limited departmental budgets, lack of incentives, liability issues related to departmental reloading facilities, and political correctness issues.

Mike Diehl

The problem isn't the officers. It was that they did not have the correct tool for the job. Their friend, rolling around trying to pry the dog off, the close range --it was the wrong place for a firearm.

In anticipation of MORE dogs, maybe the police should carry a machete or spear on that shotgun rack in the patrol car. Want to pry a pit bull off your pal? Ten inches of steel in the pit bull's flank ought to do the job far more precisely than shooting around the officer struggling with the dog.

Dave Petzal

To O Garcia: You write very well. Enjoyed the story. The best illustration of this point ever put in print is in Glendon Swarthout's novel The Shootist. When its protagonist, the gunfighter John Bernard Books is asked why he has survived so many shootouts, he replies, "Most men will hesitate before they shoot. I won't." Great book that deserved a better movie than the one John Wayne made. For that matter, John Wayne deserved a better last movie.

Dave Petzal

To O Garcia: You write very well. Enjoyed the story. The best illustration of this point ever put in print is in Glendon Swarthout's novel The Shootist. When its protagonist, the gunfighter John Bernard Books is asked why he has survived so many shootouts, he replies, "Most men will hesitate before they shoot. I won't." Great book that deserved a better movie than the one John Wayne made. For that matter, John Wayne deserved a better last movie.


Mike - your statement: "In the LA bank robber situation, AGIAN, shot placement would have saved the day.......but instead we had spray and pray mindset to no avail." As I recall, the cops had their pistols (I'm not sure if they were revolvers or semi-autos) and the crooks had machine guns. The type of handgun the cops had is not the point, nor was a spray and pray mentality the problem. They were outgunned, plain and simple, and that was the problem. My question during that episode was, "Don't they have a shotgun with buckshot and slugs in the magazine, or a rifle of some sort in their patrol cars?" Arming LEOs with revolvers isn't going to fix the problem, IMO.

Ted Strong

Sure, two or three officers with dept. issue weapons would have been outgunned, but have you looked at the video--it seems like practically half the department showed up.

With that many officers they should have been able to maneuver around the lunatics and kill them.


Ted Correct....there were MANY officers that responded....yet with all the man-power and firepower not 1 shot scored a fatal hit....body armor or no, a head shot with a little .38 would have ended the skirmish quickly.

I dont want to hear the pathetic excuses as to the officers being out gunned...2 men with semi auto AK's showed the glaring ineptness of most LEO's. The scumbags with the AK's were outgunned. PERIOD

FACT is our police are NOT well trained nor well prepared for such eventualities. Myriad are the reasons for this, but the fact still remains.

That being said...I have great respect for LEO's that take thier oaths seriously. Even though my comments may seem contrary. I am NOT anti LEO. Just have issues with those that have no clue how to use the firearms they are issued in a safe and appropriate manner. Especially when they are paid to train and have ammo for training supplied.

I reiterate, the problem is lack of training for such situations.


Mike and Ted - you weren't there, and neither was I, so saying just how easy it would have been to get close is a matter of conjecture. And were you there, bullets flying, you may not be so inclined to get close. However, you do finally agree with my point that the problem is not revolver vs. semi-auto. Quote: "I reiterate, the problem is lack of training for such situations." However, you are wrong to claim the LEOs were not outgunned. Two thugs prepared for this specific shootout with no regard for the lives of anyone, were heavily armed and armored, and had the element of surprise on their side, and faced police armed with handguns. True, some handguns and handgunners can shoot a nice group, even with open sights - on the range, under good conditions (like no one shooting back at them).

Second guessing the police is cheap; properly equipping them AND training them costs - and pays.

JA Demko

Cheap is the key word there. Police departments have limited budgets to which they must adhere. The money for that budget comes from taxes. John Q. Public may realize on some level that ammunition, arms, and training are necessary, but John also knows that he already has a heavy tax burden. Ammo and real, quality training don't come cheap. When municipal government looks at their annual budget and sets the allotment for the police department, they realistically have to take into account how much they can afford. That's a fact gentlemen. How many of you have unlimited budget for your own shooting? I sure don't. FYI, the Sheriff's Office where I work requires us to buy our own guns and any ammunition above what is used in annual qualification.

I think that there needs to be more police, that they should go out in groups, not alone, and that there should be more specialized functions for them. There should be police that are the designated shooters, those whose job it is to shoot bad guys if the bad guys start shooting. That person could be armed with a carbine, something better able to engage bad guys with guns. There should also be police that are either not armed or their firearms are more secured on their person so that no bad guy can easily take it (as cops get shot with their guns too much). That person should be the one who gets to meet and greet the public, be that talking with people or physically taking down a bad guy. His mindset should be the opposite of the gun guy, he should be thinking to use his own body or a baton or mace first, that he won't be thinking gun as it isn't easily accessible.


I dont agree automatics are better.

William Giordano

As a retired [revolver carrying ] NYPD street cop; I have this to say. If you get into a dispute involving pistols and you don't accomplish anything by the time you've fired six times, you're in deep dodo my friends. One or two to get his head down, squat as you move to the right, aim and end it with your third shot.


Thank you, backseat shooters.

I think it would be nice if ya'll would take your 'highly accurate, better than them' selves down to the local department and get hired. Or offer to do the training...

Yes, it would be nice to adhere to the 'one shot, one kill' methodology. But 'til you've been there, keep your opinions to yourself. Or better yet, share what you do for a living so we can point out the ineptitude of you and your ilk.

And as far as training... there's certainly not as much as you seem to dream about... often training time is spent learning about the latest complaints from the PC crowd.



we as LEO's do not get paid to train with our firearms. that is the problem. very few of us actually do any shooting outside of work, and thats once a year to qualify. there should be a lot more mandatory firearms training. a more offensive weapon would be helpful, but not very practicle in all other aspects of police work (chasing a drug dealer). big department do not budget officers time and recall overtime for officers to fill there spots on the street while in training. i have been in five incidents where i had to fire my weapon. thankfully i have always hit my target and nothing else. then again i have always enjoyed shooting on my off time. until you have the facts, don't make statements like you do. as far as revolver over auto loaders. the auto loader wins hands down. anyone shooting with some skill can get tacticle accuracy with either and the benifits of more rounds is definite advatage police.

JA Demko

WRT not getting paid to train, it's just that nasty ol' budget again. Where I work, most of the deputies have gone through all of their pre-hire training at their own expense. It seems that pretty much all the agencies around here will consider only applicants who are already trained. It's only the State Police, I guess, who still hire primarily untrained people and then put them through the academy at taxpayer expense. After hiring, deputies do get sent to various classes and workshops, I can't think of any of it that was firearms-related. Heck, even the couple hours that it takes to qualify annually is unpaid time for everybody concerned. The Sheriff takes the sting out of that by holding a BBQ (at his own expense) afterward.


Lets take this piece by piece. First, one of my biggest pet peeves in this life are hearing the anti-gunners whine about how only the “professional, expertly-trained” law-enforcement officers should be carrying guns, as opposed to us dangerous rednecks. Never mind the fact that the average civilian gun owner practices twenty times as much as the average LEO. I also hear far too many stories such as this one about cops committing such blatant violations of basic gun safety. If anyone acted in a similar manner at any of the gun ranges I go to, they would be blacklisted for life in three second flat. Note to Sarah Brady: a badge does NOT make a person a well-qualified or safe shooter. But somehow I have a feeling you knew that already.

Second, what should be done about this? Why not take the guns away from the police and issue them pepper spray or some of other non-lethals they insist are the only protection us civilians need? If they are good enough for us, they should be good enough for them. For those extreme cases where greater firepower would be needed, specially-trained police units will be allowed to carry an atlatl. Naturally, police in John Kerry’s state of Taxachusetts while not be allowed to carry most of these items because civies there can’t have them. Massachusetts LEOs will only be allowed to carry pepper spray after completing a background check, just like the subjects, er, citizens of Massachusetts (I swear to God, people really do have to go through a background check there for PEPPER SPRAY!).

Third, as mentioned earlier, during the North Hollywood shootout, half the friggin’ LAPD was there and despite neither of the thugs having any protecting on their heads other than a ski mask, NOBODY was able to register a head shot despite the fact that a lot of the fire happened at close range. Hell, if some civilian with a .300 magnum had been able to put a round in one of their chests it might not have killed them but the shock sure would have taken them out of the fight. Of course in Kalifornia, you have a better chance of seeing a Martian than seeing an armed civilian. Gee, I wonder why we never see any such shootouts in Virginia? Could it be that your average 12 year-old with a .22 could shoot better than the LAPD? There is an idea. Reduce the police forces to a skeleton crew. With all that tax money being saved we can give big tax breaks to everyone. The people can then use said tax breaks to buy a new gun and if we ever have another North Hollywood situation, let THEM handle it.

Fourth, beside Condie, Dubya, and the rest, what should really get your confidence meter lowered is seeing Ted Kennedy driving towards you on a bridge.

JA Demko

WRT to Ted "Das Boot" Kennedy, the only apprehension I'd feel would be is if I were in the car with him on that bridge. Or drinking with him and his nephews in their Florida compound. Or flying in a small plane piloted by one of his nephews. Whether you think JFK and RFK were good men or not, they were so charismatic that Teddy the Hutt has leeched off their names for about 40 years or so now.

Our Blogs